BOOK NEWS AND REVIEWS
A REPORTER'S LIFE BY WALTER CRONKITE (1996). NEW YORK, KNOPF.
When this reviewer's children were in the preschool and primary grades during the late 1970s and early 1980s, I would call them to watch "Uncle" Walter on the CBS Evening News. His authoritative demeanor and sonorous voice had a calming effect on them even when he was discussing the most serious national and international topics. Now, as young adults in their early twenties, they recently informed me they actually believed that Cronkite was their uncle when they were young. This well-written and humorous autobiography contains exciting descriptions of the great historical events of the latter part of the 20th century. In addition, it offers many lessons on the environment for encouraging giftedness in the communications field by one of the pioneers of television newscasting. Here are four of the most important:
Provide numerous and varied practical opportunities for children and youth to develop their independence, self-confidence and talents. In his early teens, Cronkite worked in many jobs -- a delivery boy in his grandfather's Kansas City, Missouri pharmacy; and teenage cowboy, delivery boy, clothing salesman and short-order cook in Houston, Texas where his family lived in the 1930s. The beginning of his life's work occurred while a student in Houston's San Jacinto High School when he started a reporting apprenticeship under a veteran journalist, Fred Birney -- ". . . .an inspired teacher who directed the course of my life. He wasn't even a professional teacher, but he had the gift." (p. 30).
Rigorous opportunities must be available in schools for displaying and rewarding outstanding accomplishments. Birney entered Walter in the state newswriting competition sponsored by the Texas Interscholastic Press Association. His thousand-word essay on the Leopold-Loeb murder case won the first place award. He completed this essay quicker than his competitors because of his talent for organizing large amounts of diverse information and his fast typing skills, and both abilities were invaluable in advancing his newspaper and television journalism career. (He had a reputation for producing fast and accurate copy throughout his newspaper career.)
Extensive contact with expert professional peers and the culture of a profession are essential for developing skills and talents into major accomplishments. Cronkite worked as a newspaper reporter for the Houston Post, radio station KCMO (both news and sports) in Kansas City and the United Press in Houston. He began working for the United Press in 1937 where, over a period of eleven years, he covered major air and ground campaigns of World War II. Then from 1946-48, he was UP's chief correspondent in Moscow. His many dangerous reporting missions in World War II included traveling with North Atlantic ship convoys, departing with a sizable fleet from Norfolk, Virginia to Morocco that was part of the allied North African invasion force, accompanying the second Army Air Corps raid on Germany, and flying with bomber crews during the D-day invasion of Omaha Beach.
New and innovative fields provide the best opportunities for exceptional creative accomplishments. Cronkite was hired by Edward R. Murrow in the early 1950s to broadcast the news for CBS Radio. Soon after, CBS purchased a local television station (WTOP-TV) in Washington, D.C., and assigned him to give live newscasts from this station. Cronkite brought his twenty years of intensive and varied newspaper reporting and radio broadcasting experiences to bear on developing a new medium. He applied many of the lessons learned in these previous jobs to television news broadcasting such as using principals of "what happened today" learned at the United Press night desk. He also used an informal communication style learned from his earlier radio broadcasting days. Again, Cronkite's superior organizational skills and creative ways of reporting complex events helped him to achieve success as the anchorman (1962-81) for the CBS television Evening News.
As an account of the great historical events of our age, A Reporter's Life includes many fascinating discussions, e.g., General Douglas MacArthur's return to Washington, D.C. (after being fired by President Truman in 1951) and his farewell speech to Congress, Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in 1952, the first nationally televised political conventions in 1952, the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, the Vietnam War from the 1960s through the middle 1970s, NASA's space exploration program including the 1969 moon landing, and the dramatic Israeli-Egyptian negotiations and resulting 1979 Peace Accord. Cronkite's reporting of these events and his wonderful depictions of great historical events on "You Are There" gave viewers some of the best news reporting in the history of broadcast journalism. Gifted students should read this book to learn that there was a time when objectivity ruled over sensationalism, and integrity was a major concern of professionals such as Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid and David Brinkley.
CD-ROM (PC OR MAC) ON INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBIT -- As part of the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympics' celebration, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia presented an exhibit entitled, RINGS: Five Passions in World Art. J. Carter Brown, former director of the National Gallery of Art, organized this outstanding display of 120 artistic works from museums around the world into five rings of human sensibility and emotions. Each ring includes works that represent Love, Anguish, Awe, Triumph or Joy. The multimedia CD-ROM is visually organized according to these rings. For example, the Love ring contains pictures and descriptions of paintings and sculpture such as The Kiss by Rodin, Amorous Couple (200 b.c..-a.d. 100) from Mexico, Pygmalion and Galatea by Gérôme, Krishna and Radha from India, Wife of Mabyaala from Zaire, and The Banjo Lesson by Henry Tanner. The Love ring also has an exquisite sub-exhibit of sculptures and paintings on parents and children. The Joy ring is particularly noteworthy in terms of the quality of the selections, the emotions evoked by them, and the quality of the photographic reproductions. It contains works like The Merry Fiddler by Honthorst, Figure of Budai Heshang from China, Ganesha (Elephant God) from India, Cherry Blossoms at Yoshino from Japan, Flowering Peach Tree by van Gogh, and Woman at Piano by Renoir. The CD-ROM also has wonderful musical selections from 23 nations accompanying particular artistic selections. The superb blending of the art with the music is one of its exemplary features. Another exemplary feature is that the viewer can magnify a particular part of a painting or sculpture for more detailed study. RINGS: Five Passions in World Art is an exciting electronic display that students gifted in art and the humanities should be especially interested in viewing. It can be ordered from: CALLIOPE Media; 1526 Cloverfield Blvd.; Santa Monica, CA 90404-3502.
NOTEWORTHY BOOK DISTRIBUTOR -- We highly recommend the book catalogs issued by A Common Reader. The owner, James Mustich, Jr., sells outstanding literary works of fiction and nonfiction by American and British publishers. The unique catalogs contain interesting and imaginative mini-reviews of each book. Please write to A Common Reader at 141 Tompkins Avenue; Pleasantville, NY 10570 for copies of these literary gems . The specialized catalogs are exceptional such as Lives & Letters which is concerned with letters, autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs.
IRVING STONE (1903-89): LITERARY BIOGRAPHER OF THE GIFTED SENSIBILITY
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE HUMANITIES IN THE SCHOOLS
"We are parented by everything around us--if 'parenting' means watching, instructing, encouraging, and admonishing. . . ." from The Soul's Code: In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman, 1996, p. 86.
Gifted individuals are "parented" by their environment, both physically and culturally, and their cultural parents are represented by the books they encounter. Among their most rewarding experiences are biographies that provide exemplars of high achievements, goals, motivations and standards. Irving Stone (1903-89) was the author of biographies that served as masterpieces for several generations of gifted readers.
The range of Stone's interests is an example of a unique literary sensibility. His fictionized biographies included artists -- van Gogh, Michelangelo and Pissarro; and writers and innovative thinkers -- Jack London, Darwin and Freud. Long before the feminist movement, Stone was interested in the role of women in American political life. He wrote biographies of Mary Todd Lincoln (1954), Rachel Jackson (1951) and Abigail Adams (1965). Allan Nevins, the leading American social historian of the 1940s, wrote of Stone's contribution to American historical thought as follows: "His books on historical figures have given a lively impression of the past to hundreds of thousands of readers who could have been reached by no method less vivid and vigorous than his." (from Current Biography, 1967).
Stone combined the skills of a consummate researcher with a literary imagination. His book about Michelangelo's life, The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961), is a testimony to this combination of talents. His first encounter with Michelangelo began in 1926 when he viewed this great artist's work during a visit to Florence Italy. Thirty years later, he spent one year of nighttimes and Sundays reading everything he could find about Michelangelo and his environment. In addition, he hired an Italian professor to translate the full collection of Michelangelo's letters into English. Every fictionized biography that Stone wrote was based upon reading the letters of the individual he was writing about.
At the conclusion of all of Stone's biographies, he included a detailed bibliography. Here we have a gifted writer who wrote about gifted individuals for other gifted people -- the readers. This chain of communication is like an Internet of the printed word.
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, Feb.-March 1997